Poverty ministry returns N$26m to coffers

By Maria Kandjungu

THE Ministry of Poverty Eradication now merged with the gender ministry has returned a whopping N$26 million to government coffers following its failure to utilise the funds in meeting their obligations.

Of the N$26.8 million returned to treasury, N$3 million was meant for food provision through the food bank programme, while a big chunk of N$17 million was meant for social assistance, a programme responsible for the administration of social grants.

This was revealed in the latest audit report for the 2018/2019 financial year by auditor general Junias Kandjeke which was submitted in the National Assembly last week by Finance Minister Ipumbu Shiimi.

According to the report, the ministry also returned N$2 million that was meant for planning and reviewing activities related to policy supervision, administration of support services, financial and human resources management, and other auxiliary services to other functions.

Account officer Esther Lusepani at the time told the auditors that the money was returned after the ministry failed to beef up its administration and as a result some of its mandates and crucial functions were not completed.

“Efforts by the ministry to fill vacancies have not been successful due to pending recommendations of appointments from the Public Service Commission. The recruitment in the lower positions was low due to high volumes of applications for lower posts and lack of personnel in the human resource office to accelerate the finalisation of the recruitment of advertised positions,” she reported.

She added that although a few vacant positions were cleared for example in the Information Technology department, the process was delayed and the posts could not be filled in time.

As a result, some of the money meant to cover salaries for the vacant positions was returned. It also meant activities to be administered by those personnel were not done and the money was not utilised. This she said also affected other items associated with staffing including daily subsistence, travel allowance and training.

This is however not the first time that the ministry has returned unutilised funds to treasury as in 2018, the ministry again returned N$24 million meant for their 2017/18 financial year. The ministry has also previously provided the same exact reasons for their failure to utilised funds in completing the ministry’s functions. They have especially blamed their underspending on understaffing and Cabinet failure in approving vacant positions.

Political commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah told Confidente that such returns reflect ineffective planning and failure by the ministry to implement its policies and effectively deliver on its mandate.

“We cannot afford to return money unused when so many people are hungry and in need of services. We are not doing justice at all,” he said adding that understaffing should not be used as an excuse for failure to plan.